San Francisco is the hub for many of the latest billion-dollar companies: From Airbnb to Uber, the San Francisco startup scene has become the golden gatekeeper for the dreams of many entrepreneurs.
Before you pack up your stuff into a VW bus and move out to the coast to co-found the next Slack, here are some tips on how to navigate San Francisco’s startup scene.
1. Have a working idea
It seems obvious, but knowing whether you have right idea to crack the San Francisco startup scene is a little more challenging. Is your idea scalable, meaning you can bootstrap it or build a prototype for low-to-no cost with only a few staffers? Do you have to already have some traction with your idea? San Francisco-based investors will hardly consider putting you on their calendar if you don’t already have a built-in customer base. Get some part of your concept working now before you even try to pitch your product.
2. Build your network
Venture capitalists are busy people who hear a dozen pitches a week about the “next Uber-for-something-or-other.” To get their attention, you need connections and a plan of attack.
Part of the reason you move to San Francisco is for the connections. Serendipitous encounters with the right people can boost your chances of success. It’s wise, however, to start solidifying your contacts before you become a full-time entrepreneur. Become an active member of the online community in your sector. You be surprised to find how frequently online chats can become offline business opportunities. Don’t forget to polish your public profiles on sites like LinkedIn and Twitter, as your new contacts will Google you.
Truly flummoxed as to where to start meeting people in person? Meetup.com is a great space to find local groups with similar interests. Have a little money to put into your startup? Get to know some fellow entrepreneurs by renting a desk at a co-working space
Oddly, the most difficult part of becoming an entrepreneur in San Francisco is figuring out where you’re going to live. Startup entrepreneurs may “live” at the office, but you still need a spot to put your stuff and rest your head. In San Francisco, the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom unit in 2015 was $4,200. Yes, you read that correctly.
San Francisco has many suburbs and an excellent public transportation system, but the surrounding area doesn’t offer much of a price break when it comes to housing. In the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area, the Zillow Rent Index hit $3,162 in 2015, compared to a national Zillow Rent Index at $1,364. San Francisco homebuyers can expect to spend about 39 percent of their income each month on a typical house payment. Renters can expect to spend 45.6 percent on rent, according to Zillow.
Now that you see the numbers, what can you do about it? Unless your parents or spouse are floating you, the best idea is to have enough money saved back for six months of rent just in case monetizing your startup doesn’t happen right away. Have some idea of what you can do if you need to get a day job to keep things going. Whether you freelance your coding skills or moonlight as a bartender, make sure you can make enough income to keep a roof over your head.
Getting started in San Francisco isn’t easy, but plenty of plucky entrepreneurs are making it work. Good luck!